This savory one pot chicken and rice recipe is inspired by a national dish from the South Pacific. Polynesian Chicken Lap Lap Skillet combines fully loaded rice with moist, slightly spicy boneless chicken breasts for an easy dinner recipe sure to please. The quick-to-make sauce really is the crowning glory of the recipe.
I love a good one pot recipe, don’t you? This combination of savory rice topped with slightly spicy marinated chicken is hearty and filling. The unique sauce pulls the dish together with little effort to make it. A great dish for a chilly day especially!
The inspiration for this recipe came from an unexpected source. My daughter is a high school senior and has been taking French for 7 years. One project her French teachers have employed about once a year is to have the students select a recipe from a French-speaking country, to make the recipe on video while speaking only in French.
The food is then also brought to school for a food tasting day that all the students may enjoy. I shared a recipe for Seychelles-Style Coconut Chicken Curry which was the product of the same sort of assignment. Boy, was it delicious! I personally like these assignments because I learn things about the food and culture too (without having to do any work).
As you might imagine most of the shared recipes are for desserts from more well-known French-speaking countries. My daughter and her classmate partner wanted to do something unique and picked the national dish of Vanuatu in the South Pacific; Chicken Lap Lap. Technically ‘Lap Lap’ (or laplap) is the national recipe and it can be made with chicken, pork or flying fox (a type of bat).
The recipe is in three parts. The first is a bed of taro root, a tuber used for making poi for any who have travelled to Hawaii. A mixture of grated taro is spread on top of a banana leaf, covered with tomatoes and ‘island cabbage’ (or spinach for those who don’t have access to island cabbage) with another banana leaf placed on top.
The Lap Lap is baked and steams in the process forming the bed for some spicy chicken and flavorful sauce which are cooked separately. When made authentically (as in Vanuatu and not for a French class video assignment fortunately) the entire recipe is cooked, wrapped in banana leaves, in an underground oven.
It was such a joy to be working in my office hearing the chattering lilt of girl’s voices in French as they cooked! I felt like I was on vacation. I helped with a few adaptations and we all agreed it was a delicious recipe, especially the chicken and the sauce.
We are fortunate to have an expansive Asian market about 25 minutes from our house and they had everything we needed for the recipe from the taro root, to lime leaves, banana leaves, and Thai bird chilies. It was a fabulous excursion having never been to the store before.
It struck me it would be a very fun dish to adapt into a one pot Polynesian Chicken Lap Lap Skillet. I’ve swapped taro root for grated sweet potato added to traditional long grain rice with tomatoes, onions and spinach (‘island cabbage’ for those land locked!). The chicken is spiced similarly to Chicken Lap Lap but toned down a bit (it was really spicy)!
The sauce is made very similarly however with less flour than the recipe the girls had found (referenced in the recipe notes). It has a beautiful flavor from ginger, garlic, coconut milk, Thai chile and onions. The texture is unique; a bit gelatinous but don’t let that put you off. It’s flavor really pulls the recipe together in perfect delicious harmony!
Polynesian Chicken Lap Lap Skillet recipe brings familiar ingredients together in a celebration of a South Pacific national dish in a new form! Basically a one pot recipe, this savory recipe combines fully loaded rice, lightly marinated chicken with a light, special sauce for an unforgettable dinner option!
Ok I’ll confess, when I see a long recipe, I shut down. I assume it will take too long. This is not the case with this Polynesian Chicken Lap Lap Skillet recipe. I’ve broken it into three sections and each is very easy. The marinade takes a few minutes to put together and the chicken does not soak in it as with most marinades; it’s really more coated then the breasts are cooked on both sides and set aside.
The rice is easy to mix up, cooks on it’s own then the chicken is added in to cook together making moist, tender chicken and perfectly cooked rice with no effort or supervising form you! Lastly the sauce is super fast to whip up and so worth it! We all agree it put the magic in this dish!